Its December again, the month which brings out the best in Goa. Being relatively close to this place where the party never stops in December (or ever), I decided to gate-crash. And again, this beach town and its party crowd did not disappoint me but made me a greater fan, if such a thing is possible.
What do I love about Goa so much?I don’t think I can summarize in 100 or 1000 words. I love the sea, the food, the parties, the road-side shops, the freely available rental vehicles, the swing in the air, the grooviness of the crowd, the conspicuous absence of the ‘fastness’ or the ‘fastidiousness’, the pool-side bars and cafes, the romantic dinners, the beach-side shacks…Yes, that is my personal favorite – the endless queue of beach shacks in Goa. To me they represent the best of what Goa has to offer. The food, the alcohol, the party-time, the sea, the carelessness – everything rolled into one. Perhaps they are a concept unique to this sleepy Siesta town, for I have not yet found these delightful shacks on any other beach. (Yes, I admit to my limited experience, but I have visited enough Indian beaches and a few foreign beaches that qualify me to make that statement, with a caveat emptor of course)
During the season, which begins in November and goes up to January, these shacks line up the groovy beaches of Goa – particularly the Baga and Calangute. And during this time, they dedicate themselves to serving good times and everything that goes with it.
At day time they offer you their sun-beds and sun-umbrella, and if you are ordering at the restaurant they do not charge you anything for the extended hours you may spend sleeping, reading, enjoying eye-candies, romancing or massaging sun-tan lotions on these beds. If you are not ordering, they put a nominal charge. They may even kick you out in this case, but it rarely happens that you will go without eating on a lazy beach afternoon, so I don’t have references to draw upon. Spend your day lazying around, enjoying an occasional dip in the salty water, or a thrilling water sport. Come back to a chilled bottle of breezer and appetizing fries, hiding behind the sunshade.
At nights, the sun-beds recede to pave way for romantic candle-light dinner tables. Facing the sea, placed quite close to the shorelines, these dinner tables are amongst the best places to enjoy a great Goan meal, some nice wine and un-intrusive banter of the friendly waiter. (Who will probably be wearing shabby beach wear, but talking to you in smooth English that goes beyond the ‘What will have you have sar’s and ‘Thank You’s). The very dark and roaring sea spreads in front of you, and inspires both fear and admiration. A lot of shacks, specially at Baga play party music and have Karaoke bars (you can hear the occasional cacophony of a wannabe singers, but don’t worry, the smart pubs keep the mike volumes drowned out), and at Calangute there is brilliant firework that keeps the sparks going. Some enterprising shacks have now started the DJ and disc trends, though I think people still go to the traditional Mambo’s and Club Cabana’s for dancing.
As for the food, I do not know where to begin. The small huts will offer an assortment of Indian, Chinese, Continental and Goan food. Don’t look for the food by courses, but by the time of the day. You can order mash potato and eggs to order any time, but save those gourmet orders for the luxurious lunches and dinners. Of course alcohol is ever available and at prices that will make your jaw drop – the cocktails are surprisingly well-mixed. The dessert is a little restricted, unless you are at more upscale shacks like Britto’s – at the more humble shacks (which are also far more fun than Britto’s) you mostly get pancakes, ice-creams and fruit salads.
So next time you head to Goa, along with the recommended Souza Lobo’s and Mambo’s, at least one evening take off your shoes, step on the sand and walk over to a shack. Make sure that you walk enough though, else the idlers near the beach entrance may ruin that perfect peace for you.